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While the proclamation is a start in taking a stand against racism, we do not believe it resolves the issue. To resolve racism, we must identify where the problem is most transparent and intervene in that area. The proclamation to condemn racism was initiated by the Clovis City Council in response to the recent hate crime against Chanel Wapner, who runs the only black-owned business in Old Town Clovis. Her shop Just my Essentials was vandalized with racial slurs graffitied across the walls and an X through BLM on the floor which stands for Black Lives Matter.

Shiela Yingwangkay and Nancy Cortez

Opinion

Reaction to Black Lives Matter Movement

With the BLM mark, we can see that whoever did this was reacting to the recent national Black Lives Movement that broke out in response to the wrongful death of George Floyd earlier this year. This blatant act is the first to gain city officials’ attention and to take action in eliminating racism in Clovis and within Fresno County. Given the recent national protests across America and its message against hate crimes, it’s no wonder city officials responded. However, this does not resolve racism.

We decided to look at newspaper coverage of racism within Fresno County to determine where acts of racism are most transparent in media but not escalated to be considered a hate crime. Clovis Unified School District has been mentioned numerous times with allegations of racism towards minority students.

Racism Allegations Within Clovis Unified

In February 2018, CUSD came under attack when a student group Snapchat was leaked revealing racist conversations between students making jokes about Black slavery. During the same month, a biracial Hispanic-Laotian high school student was verbally attacked by her teacher who told her to go back to her country for not standing during the pledge of allegiance. Furthermore, parents began addressing the concern of their children’s experience of racism at school.

Danell teNyenhuis Black went as far as to reveal her nieces’ and nephews’ names to publish an opinion of their experiences in being targeted for being biracial. She mentions that her nephew was nicknamed Token by his cross country team and no one from the school addressed that it was a racist remark. Her niece had classmates throwing pencils and paper in her hair and was told “that black people had a certain smell.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the Clovis Unified School District in September, alleging the district has created a “racially hostile climate” for African-American students. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

ACLU Complaint Against District

Most recently, the American Civil Liberty Union filed a complaint against CUSD regarding a student’s racial trauma that exacerbated his mental illness from multiple racist incidents for several years and “requests policy changes to make Clovis Unified teachers culturally competent. Nevertheless, the CUSD spokesperson continually assures the press that these acts don’t reflect their efforts and that their system is one that promotes respect for students’ race and culture. Racism amongst and against youth minorities within CUSD is most prevalent in Fresno County.

​To eradicate racism and find justice for those affected within the community, we must start with the school districts. Racism is most transparent amongst these youth. School districts must implement policies to address cultural competency amongst the faculty, staff, and student body. The school districts must also educate them on diversity in school starting at junior high and continuing into high school. Further, Fresno County must make more of an effort to celebrate diversity months such as Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Only by implementing intervention amongst these youth will we resolve the issue of racism in the county.

About the Authors

Sheila Yingwangkay and Nancy Cortez are graduate students at the University of Southern California. Yingwangkay works as a graduate research assistant at California State University, Fresno. Cortez is a case manager at Arroyo Vista Family Health Center in Southern California.   

5 Responses

  1. Drew Bessinger

    A proclamation is a great step, and certainly not our first. Mere words will never end the scourge of racism and bias in our country or in any city. The Clovis City Council’s recent action is just one of many things we have done as a community to shine the light on hatred and bigotry in any form that it presents it’s ugly head. We have brought the Martin Luther King Day events to Clovis about 10+ years ago, and our Police Department has been actively involved in the MLK events for almost 20 years. Hate crimes are actively investigated. We have stood and will continue to stand for the victims of hate. Our community quickly gathered around Chanel to express their outrage and their support because that’s what good people always do. Please look at our City’s and Police Department’s Facebook and Twitter feeds to see our dedication and the actions we have taken and will continue to take to protect and serve all members of our community. How we as a nation resolve racism, in all the forms it takes in our society, is a serious question and an unfortunate challenge. My short answer is hate is learned and cannot be tolerated in our society. We must teach our children, be actively intolerant of hatred when it occurs, hold each other accountable, and be vigilant for the situations when our voices and deeds need to be mobilized, like in Chanel’s case.

    Mayor Drew Bessinger

    Reply
    • Scott Troescher

      That is a very stupid and uneducated remark. Clovis certainly struggles with racism. Mayor Bessinger says it well. WE are constantly working, together as a community, to get it right. And we won’t stop until we do.

      Reply
  2. Elspeth

    It saddens me to agree that yes, there would be very little of the population left. I don’t understand, what bothers you most, the fact that there are many racists in the community or that Clovis is being called racist? I do not think it is stupid to call something what it clearly is and has always been. The many racist have always been around they are just not hiding it anymore, and you certainly do not need an education to recognize racism. What is true stupidity and actually pretty lame is the denial and trying to sugar coat things and act as though this is a single incident.

    Reply

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